Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hand of God?

CNN) -- New photographs released by NASA have captured images of a vast stellar formation resembling a human hand reaching across space.
NASA's Chandra Observatory captured this hand-shaped image of an X-ray nebula.

The image, taken by NASA's space-based Chandra Observatory telescope, shows an X-ray nebula 150 light years across.

It shows what appear to be ghostly blue fingers -- thumb and pinky clearly discernible from index, ring and middle digits -- reaching into a sparkling cloud of fiery red.

NASA says the display is caused by a young and powerful pulsar, known by the rather prosaic name of PSR B1509-58.

"The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand," NASA says.

The space agency says B1509 -- created by a collapsed star -- is one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the Galaxy. The nebula is formed by a torrent of electrons and ions emitted by the 1,700-year-old phenomenon.

The finger-like structures are apparently caused by "energizing knots of material in a neighboring gas cloud," NASA says.

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